Straight from famously “ungetable” Isle of Jura to Australia’s biggest Club of whisky lovers, February 2019 saw the official Australian launch of the massively anticipated new Jura 18 Year Old Single Malt exclusive to The Whisky Club. This deeply rich and full-bodied whisky masterpiece was aged 18 years in American Oak ex-Boubon casks followed by a decadent finish in Premier Grand Cru Classé Bordeaux barrels.
Packed with flavours of forest and tropical fruits and perfectly balanced with dark chocolate, gentle smoke, toffee, coffee and toasty wood, this game–changing malt represents the ultimate in whisky appreciation.
Once again our lucky Members snapped it up in no time at all, so if you haven’t already, click here to join the Club now.
Country of Origin:
“Extremely un-get-at-able.” This is how George Orwell famously described his attempts to reach the Isle of Jura in 1946. Not much has changed because the island is still as awkward to reach today as it was back then – the island has no direct transport to the mainland and all ferry traffic coming via Islay! Jura lies off the west coast of Scotland, covering 367km². There’s only one road, one pub, one shop, one distillery and it boasts a population of 200 humans and 5000 deer. Not surprising then that the island takes its name from the old Viking word “Dhiura” meaning red deer.
Jura has been making whisky for a long time, the Duriachs (as inhabitants of the island are known) enjoyed a long period of unhindered home distillation before the Excise Act of the 1781 formalised the industry. The islanders, however, thought very little of the ban and many of the estimated 250 pot stills remained active long after the imposition, and considering the island’s extreme un-get-at-able-ness, it was going to take a very determined excise man to actually enforce the act.
All backyard fun aside, Jura was about to enter the whisky A-league when, in 1810, local kingpin Archibald Campbell got a strong whiff of opportunity and built a distillery on the Island. Initially called Small Isles Distillery, it’s also been known as Craighouse and Caol nan Eilean before Isle of Jura Distillery finally stuck. Not short of a few bob, the largest landowner on the island created an engineering marvel using only gravity to move liquid between the production areas and produced a heavy, smoky whisky similar to those made on neighbouring Islay, taking its water from the dark, peaty Loch A-Bhaile Mhargaidh, 300m above Craighouse.
Unfortunately Archibald and his family weren’t experts in whisky production and ran the distillery into the ground. In 1875 they found new professional tenants, Ferguson & Sons Distillers from Glasgow, who signed a 25-year lease that required them to increase capacity and build and maintain a new pier and a connecting road. All was well until the new lease came up and a disagreement over rates ensued. The following year, in 1901, Ferguson & Sons ceased production, stripping out all of the facilities including 4 large copper stills. Things took a final turn for the worse when the crumbling distillery’s roof was removed in order to avoid paying tax rates.
By 1958 Jura’s population had dropped to a meagre 150 inhabitants thanks to the industrial revolution, new frontiers and two world wars. Realising something had to be done about the dwindling population, two local landowners named Tony Riley-Smith and Robin Fletcher combined their love of whisky and a shared concern for Jura’s declining fortunes and embarked on making whisky on the island again. With backing from Leith-based blenders Charles Mackinlay & Co. they enlisted renowned architect William Delme-Evans to oversee the rebuild. Delme-Evans was so dedicated to the job that he famously learned to fly a propeller plane and built a small runway near the distillery simply in order to ease his commute to and from the island. The project was an overwhelming success but sadly Robin Fletcher passed away before he could see his bold vision come to life. Today in celebration of his contribution to the island a foundation stone from the 1810 distillery sits at the entrance of the distillery with the inscription; “This stone from the ruins of the original Jura distillery was laid here by the widow of Robert G Fletcher who with F.A Riley-Smith conceived and instigated the rebuilding of this distillery to provide industry for the island.”
In 1963, the stills at Jura distillery fired up once more and ran with fresh new make spirit and it’s been pretty smooth sailing ever since. Jura was first sold as a single malt in 1974 and in 1978 the distillery was expanded to its current size. In 1985, Invergordon Distillers bought Mackinlays before the two firms were folded into current owners Whyte & Mackay in 1993.
Today, although the population hasn’t returned to the original level, the distillery sits at the heart of the small community and underpins the local economy and environment. Jura is a relatively large distillery producing around two million litres of spirit per year, much of which goes to the popular Whyte & Mackay blends, while the very best casks are retained as single malt. This month we’re absolutely delighted to celebrate this stunning island with the pinnacle of Isle of Jura Distillery’s new Signature Series: Jura 18 Year Old, an exquisite malt finished in Premier Grand Cru Classé Bordeaux barrels and exclusive to the Club in Australia.
About Jura Single Malt Whisky:
It was a significant moment for Jura when the distillery was taken over by Whyte & Mackay because it brought production under the umbrella of Richard Patterson, third-generation master distiller and whisky industry legend. Going by the moniker “The Nose”, Patterson is best known for his work with Dalmore Distillery and creating Whyte & Mackay’s award-winning range of blends, and has been instrumental in turning Jura’s single malts into the sought-after delights they are today.
Isolation and adversity can work together to create a drive unlike any other. In the case of the Diurachs, there’s a belief anything is possible, and they keep proving it. After all, there are plenty of easier places to make whisky. This same spirit goes into their whisky (though not literally) and combines with three key elements to create something truly unique – a whisky that’s sweet yet subtly smoky, balanced and accessible.
The first of these unique elements are Jura’s stills. Some of the tallest in all of Scotland they tower at 7.7m producing a beautifully light, sweet spirit. The second element is the subtle smoke. For just 4 weeks a year Jura makes a rich, oily, heavily peated spirit that when blended with their unpeated spirit gives body and depth and just the faintest hint of smoke. Of course the third element is casks. Jura uses predominantly American White Oak ex-bourbon barrels, along with very high quality ex-sherry and ex-red wine casks to make one of the most enticingly balanced malt whiskies on the market today.
In 2018, in the biggest overhaul of liquid and packaging in the distillery’s history, Jura took a bold move to overhaul their entire core range and replace it with all new expressions tied together by a signature house style.
The brainchild of Jura’s distillery manager Graham Logan, it marks a hugely significant step for Jura: ‘A new house style of whisky is not for the faint hearted but it tells you where we are now and how committed we are to Jura, the community and our whiskies for the long term. Combining two styles of whisky is a fairly unorthodox approach, but one that we know is right for Jura. We can’t wait for people to try and it and see for themselves.’
Well the wait is over because this February we bring you the pinnacle of the new Signature Series, Jura 18 Year Old. Matured in American White Oak and treated to a decadent finish in Premier Grand Cru Classé Bordeaux barrels, adding notes of toffee, berries and bitter chocolate to the rich island malt, topped off with just a touch of refined smoke. While the rest of the range will be on shelves across Australia this year, you won’t see the 18 Year Old until 2020, so we’d recommend doubling up on this beauty to keep you going until then.
$125 per bottle + $15 flat fee postage (RRP $170)
Age on release:
18 years in American White Oak ex-bourbon barrels, finished in Premier Grand Cru Classé Bordeaux barrels
Jura quick facts
Place of origin: Craighouse, Isle of Jura, Argyllshire, PA60 7XT, Scotland, United Kingdom
Water source: Loch a’ Bhaile-Mhargaidh (Market Loch)
Number of stills: 2 wash stills and 2 spirit stills
Capacity: 2,200,000 litres per annum
Colour: Rosewood gold
Nose: Gentle and delightfully elegant with notes of toffee, tropical fruits, dried berries and cinnamon.
Palate: Beautifully rich and full-bodied Island malt with black forest fruit, bitter chocolate, coffee and the gentlest touch of smoke.
Finish: Long and warming with sour sweet tropical fruit and a touch of chocolate. Say hello to your new favourite whisky.
Raspberry sorbet and dark salty chocolate.